This curriculum review is part of the Children's Ministry Toolkit - a collection of resources for building strong and vibrant children's ministry, brought to you by Faith Formation Ministries.
252 Kids (formerly known as 252 Basics) is a web-based large group/small group curriculum for children in grades K-5. 252 Kids places a high emphasis on teaching children how to live. To do this, Bible stories are clustered around monthly “Life Apps” (formerly called “Virtues”). Everything taught “is based on one of three basic, but powerful, truths modeled by Jesus in Luke 2:52:
- I need to make the wise choice (wisdom)
- I can trust God no matter what (faith)
- I should treat others the way I want to be treated (friendship).”
Published by reThink Group as part of the Orange branded strategy for faith formation, 252 Kids is date-specific and sold by subscription packages based on the number of kids who attend your program.
Orange offers outstanding leader support and creates beautiful resources for families. It also hosts high-energy conferences featuring engaging speakers and corridors filled with curriculum pieces for purchase, alongside Orange-branded mugs, marbles and more. For children’s ministry leaders who seek to engage children and to partner with their families, Orange appears to be the brightest color in the box.
But as children’s ministry leaders whose deep desire is to partner with families while growing in children a three-dimensional faith “that is rooted deep inside so that even when our head doubts or our heart falters, our faith remains strong” (Keeley, Helping Our Children Growth in Faith) it’s important that we look beyond colorful marketing and look carefully at faith-shaping content.
252 Kids is a curriculum in which the focus continues to be on our behavior, not our God. Rather than approaching each story through the lens of God’s love for the world and God’s plan for redemption and restoration through Jesus, 252 focuses on the “life applications” of Cooperation, Trust, Endurance, Generosity, Commitment, and more.
The best way to illustrate the difference between 252’s virtues-based approach and a Reformed theological approach is to compare how stories are interpreted and told with children. See three such comparisons below:
1. Genesis 3
Virtues-based theology (252 Basics, K-5, August 2012):
- Session Title: The Garden of Eden
- Bottom Line: When you want what you shouldn’t have, it can lead to trouble.
- Life Application: Contentment—choosing to be happy with what you’ve got.
Reformed theology (using Dwell, Grades 2-3, Wonder, Y2, U1)
- Session Title: Sin Spoils God’s World
- Focus: God’s perfect creation was spoiled when Adam and Eve disobeyed.
- Faith Nurture Goals:
- Give examples of how sin spoiled creation.
- Tell what God promised Adam and Eve.
- Celebrate our forgiveness in Christ.
Note: For a complete outline of the way Genesis 3 is told from a Reformed perspective with ages 2 through Grade 8, read Every Pastor in the CRC Should Hear This)
2. Matthew 8:5-13
Virtues-based theology (252 Basics, K-5, August 2017)
- Session Title: Faith of the Centurion
- Life Application: Respect—showing others they are important by what you say and do.
- Bottom Line: Show respect to God because he’s in charge of everything.
Reformed theology (using Dwell, Grades 2-3, Wonder, Y1, U2)
- Session Title: Jesus Heals the Centurion’s Servant
- Focus: Jesus wants us to trust him to heal our sickness.
- Faith Nurture Goals:
- Wonder at Jesus’ power over sickness.
- Believe that Jesus is able to heal us.
- Offer examples from our own lives of Jesus’ healing power.
- Pray for healing for someone who is sick.
Virtues-based theology (252 Basics, K-5, February 2018)
- Session Title: Ruth and Boaz
- Life Application: Kindness—showing others they are valuable by how you treat them.
- Bottom Line: Be kind to your family and friends.
Reformed theology (using Dwell,Grades 2-3, Wonder, Y2, U6)
- Session Title: Ruth
- Focus: God blessed Ruth when she chose to become one of God’s people.
- Faith Nurture Goals:
- Tell how God blessed Ruth.
- Want to belong to God’s people.
- Celebrate belonging to God.
See the difference? If our goal is to nurture in children a resilient, lifelong faith, it’s imperative that we move beyond “life applications” and begin by exploring God’s story together, discovering how God calls us to live into and live out of that story.
Scope and Sequence
Rather than telling stories sequentially and building upon what was learned by going deeper as children age their way through the curriculum, 252 cycles its way through the Bible every three years by grouping 150 Bible stories and passages into into 30 monthly “Life Apps.” They refer to this system as a Scope and Cycle. (For an example of how those Life Apps shape the content of each Bible story, see the Life App list on page 7 of this Scope and Cycle from 2017-2018 and the go back and read through the “Bottom Line” for each story on pages 3-6.)
On the surface a thematic grouping of stories doesn’t seem to be a problem. After all, irregular attendance on Sundays is the norm in many churches, so it’s no longer reasonable to expect that children will be hearing God’s story in sequential order at church on Sunday. However, it is still possible to read God’s stories at home sequentially in order to help children learn how God remains continually faithful in the lives of God’s people. Families who use the 252 at home resources will be using stories that are grouped together around a life application, rather than one story after another of the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God.
This curriculum exudes fun and works hard to ensure that everything is engaging and relevant—from large group story presentations and small group activities to the leader training videos.
Living Into God’s Story
Each session includes questions for the small group leaders to ask the children, but in the sample sessions we reviewed we didn’t see any questions that invited wonder or deeper reflection from the children. Rather, the leader questions seemed designed to bring kids back to life application of the Bible story.
Living Out of God’s Story
According to the website, the curriculum suggests one local and one global ministry project in which kids can give of themselves every year.
Faith Nurture at Home
252 offers an abundance of tools for families to use at home.
GodTime cards are weekly devotionals for kids and parents to do together (K-3rd grade) or for kids to do on their own (4th-5th grade). Churches can print and distribute the cards to families, and they are also available online. The cards are fun and well-written, with do-able devotions and activities related to the virtue of the month. The problem is that the family resources reduce God’s story to a book of virtues/series of life applications and fail to invite families to wonder, to reflect, and to discover God together.
Parent CUE is where Orange really shines. In addition to downloadable resources, the website features podcasts and blogs on family life, relationships, technology and more. Parent CUE is available in an app as well. Best part: you don’t need to be a 252 Basics church to access these resources for parents and caregivers; they are open to anyone.
252 has a team of “Orange Specialists” who can be contacted for support. They also offer high-energy conferences for leaders and provide leaders with a list of all area churches who are using the curriculum so that leaders can create their own local network of support.
Have questions? Our Children's Ministry Catalyzer would love to talk with you about faith formation in children at your church. Email [email protected].